Saturday, October 8, 2011

When dreams come true

Daelle, Dillon and their new family dropped by at the shelter today to sign the adoption papers. 

With pen put to paper, the adoption became official. These two boys are no longer homeless shelter kids. They now have a warm loving human family to call their own.

Just saying that makes me feel an irrational sense of pride ... Proud that these two babies, affectionately known as D&D, have finally graduated from the rough and tumble of shelter life. Proud of this family who saw the good in the boys and tried their hardest to make it work. Proud that we have come a full circle since they were dumped back to the shelter by their respective initial adopters. 

Proud and thankful of course... because someone must have been watching over our D&D to make all this possible.

When D&D's adopters Frae and Tek first dropped us an email, they were originally interested in Junior, our local Lab. But then, they came down to the shelter, took Dillon and Daelle for a walk and never looked back since. 

We didn't think it would all pan out so smoothly. In fact, we threw quite a few obstacles in Frae and Tek's way, unintentionally of course, in the interest of our dogs. 

At the beginning, Frae and Tek appeared to be more interested in Dillon. He was beautiful, a joy to walk and could be very affectionate with humans. But worried that the two brothers would suffer from separation anxiety if Daelle were left behind, Wee decided that D&D came as a package. If one went, the other must too.

If you helped out at the shelter long enough, you would understand. Whenever Dillon went for a walk (because he was often the more popular one amongst shelter volunteers), Daelle could be heard whining pitifully behind the fence, yearning to tag along as well.

Whenever Dillon was bored, the first friend he would turn to was his brother Daelle. He would grab Daelle's hind leg by the mouth and lure Daelle into a tussle, which Daelle would enthusiastically accept.

As brothers go, these two were exceptionally close. We were quite concerned about the impact on either one of them in the face of a permanent separation.

We thought setting down such a requirement would deter Frae and Tek from proceeding. Imagine how thrilled we were when they proposed a trial homestay for not one, but both of them. 

As most homestays went, Daelle and Dillon's wasn't the most perfect. Faced with the prospect of a pristine house, this pair of naughty brothers set about on their destructive trail, with Dillon in the lead. But having handled dogs before, this behaviour was expected and Frae and Tek took it in their stride.

What startled them most, however, was that Daelle started to snap at the children, leaving small puncture marks on their arms. The kids are young at 2 and 8 years old and were understandably frightened. So were the parents.

When the incident repeated itself again, the family decided that it was better to be safe than sorry. It was time for the home stay to come to an end after two weeks. Frae and Tek were worried for the safety of their children and understandably so. 

We were horrified to learn about what Daelle did. Daelle had never been aggressive with humans. Sure, he would growl at other dogs, but never to us humans. Whatever could be the cause? Florence checked in with a dog trainer friend of ours and learnt that it might be because Daelle was trying to build hierarchy in the family, in a way only dogs know how.

We were disappointed that the adoption didn't work out. The family had seemed so warm and enthusiastic about the whole process and even without us knowing, we began to hope for a happy ending for the boys. 

When they sent Daelle and Dillon back, it was apparent that the family were most sorry to see them go. Two weeks sounds short. But two weeks of sharing a life together under the same household was certainly long enough for a bond to develop between man and dogs.

Adoptions succeed, adoptions fail. Sometimes, it just wasn't anybody's fault. It was just the way things were. Despite the failed adoption, we were grateful for the chance Frae and Tek had given to the boys. We were also happy to have them back at the shelter. They were missed during their time away. 

Two days later, we were surprised to hear from Frae once again. The family had talked things through and everyone, including the kids, was keen to try again. Frae proposed a second home stay with the boys, this time for keeps.

It seemed like the family was serious about making this work. This time, with a clearer idea of what they were in for, they suggested re-organising the house to accommodate the dogs, reading up books on all things canine, engaging a dog trainer for D&D and re-introducing the kids to the dogs. Until the next homestay was set, Frae proposed that she and Tek come down on weekdays to walk D&D to keep the bond in place. 

Reading the email Frae wrote to Florence, I was inexplicably moved. Here was a family that was trying their hardest to give our two dogs a home. It wasn't just the parents. The kids, too, were ready to forgive, forget and start over.

In the face of such sincerity, we couldn't find it in us to say no. Even Wee who is usually too busy to entertain visitors on weekdays agreed to having Frae and Tek down to walk D&D.

On 3 September, Frae and Tek returned to the shelter to take Daelle and Dillon home once more. During the kids' September school holidays, the whole family underwent training together with the dog trainer they had engaged. Not everything went according to plan though. In the first week of the home stay, there was yet another biting incident.

But with the help of the experienced trainer, the family chugged on. And in the next two weeks, it seemed as if the tide had finally turned. Dillon and Daelle were finally settling in peacefully. Perhaps they had found their place in the family at last. No more hierarchy building for Daelle we hope! 

When the whole family - sans the baby - came down today, they looked like they were just that - a family. Daelle stuck to Tek, Dillon settled comfortably beside Frae, with their sweet, quiet son Ryan standing next to them.

The thought of Daelle and Dillon finally finding not just any family but this lovely family made me feel like our dogs were blessed. Perhaps they were made to go through a bit of bitter in the past, just so they can taste the sweet of the present. 

We don't know what lies ahead for these two boys. We just know that every day with this new family of theirs is a blessing. This is one of the longest, if not the longest, home stays that we have had to facilitate leading up to adoption. But it is also definitely the most fruitful. 

This experience has made it clear that adopting a dog is never easy. Adoption is rather like having a new member of the family. It's about sacrifices. It's about team work. It's about not turning on them when the going gets tough. 

Sounds like a deal not worth taking? Don't forget that at the end of this very tough journey is a well of undying devotion and unwavering friendship. There's a reason why Bob Barker once said that a person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life. Here at Gentle Paws, we firmly believe that home is where the bark is. 

With that, we have come to the end of my story. The next chapter's just beginning. Good luck and good bye, Dillon and Daelle! Until the next visit, please behave you two!

Frae, Tek, Ryan and baby, thank you for giving D&D a family. We're glad they got you guys and not anyone else. 

Gentle Paws & Friends 


  1. It's always heartening to see a successful adoption! It means that there's now two more places open at the shelter for dogs who need it :)

  2. what a wonderful family!! -ej

  3. What a wonderful family! You are all angels!


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